Q My husband has been struggling with depression for years. Our health plan would only cover a few sessions with a therapist and we don't have the money to pay for care beyond that, so we don't know what to do. I pray about it constantly. What else can I do?
A Perhaps it helps to look at it this way: If you had bald tires on the family van and very little money, what would you do? If you lived in a dangerous neighborhood and your front door wouldn't lock, what would you do?
There are some things you don't want to simply accept or endure. Physical injury, safety concerns and serious mental health problems are all matters that we must deal with aggressively.
In our culture, where depression and chronic unhappiness are so common, we can start to think: “Hey, he's depressed; it's unfortunate, but that's the burden we have to bear.” But that's not so.
Depression, as opposed to episodic unhappiness, is debilitating. When left untreated, depressed parents are generally unable to provide the positive, supportive environment that a home needs. Domestic duties go unmet, plans unfulfilled. Happiness in the home is deflated, often producing a more serious withdrawal and a downward spiral that can even lead to death.
This is not normal. It should not be regarded as “just the way it goes.” It's radically abnormal, even though it's prevalent; and it's not what Christ intends for us.
Some of these problems may be related to temperament or to specific hardships. But we were created to give life, to spread the joy of the Gospel and to transmit love. Anything other than that as a normal way of life is odd, peculiar and unacceptable.
So, do anything you can to meet your husband's problem head on and get it behind him. Treat it like a crisis, because it is. Don't adjust to it, don't learn to live with it, don't apologize for it and don't blame. Commit yourself instead to bringing hope and joy back into his life.
If he'll go, you could start by seeking spiritual direction together. It helps to make sure that spiritual issues are being addressed thoughtfully and coherently — to be sure that you can benefit from God's grace.
But spiritual guidance must also be supplemented with professional clinical help. Talking with a therapist to get to the bottom of the depression, and to manage it, is critical. Anti-depressant medication may or may not be necessary. Find a qualified orthodox Catholic therapist if possible. Talk about the fee issue and try to work something out. But don't let a balanced budget get in the way because the situation is only likely to get worse. Be willing to give your total involvement as well, if it's called for.
Depression is treatable. Treating it is challenging, however, and at times exasperating — and potentially expensive. Therein lies the difficulty, but it's necessary to marshal all your resources — including prayer — to defeat it.
Art Bennett A. Bennett is a marriage, family and child therapist.
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